Rajat Sharma

Presidential poll: How Modi proved there is nothing called united opposition now

AKB30 There was hectic political activity in several states on Monday as MPs and MLAs casted their votes to elect India’s new President. Crossvoting was reported from opposition ranks, as several MPs and MLAs cast their votes in favour of NDA candidate Draupadi Murmu, whose election seems to be a foregone conclusion. Counting will take place on Thursday. The combined opposition had fielded Yashwant Sinha as candidate. All indicators show that Draupadi Murmu may take oath as India’s first tribal woman President on July 25.

In all, 4,796 MPs and MLAs cast their votes, and the turnout was 99 per cent. There was 100 per cent voting in eleven states and one union territory. Reports said, Congress and several other opposition MLAs casted votes in favour of Murmu listening to their ‘voice of conscience’. Political equations in several states may undergo changes after the Presidential election results are out.

A total of 765 MPs cast their votes, while 99 per cent of a total of 4,025 MLAs voted to elect the President. The combined opposition sought votes for Yashwant Sinha in the name of ‘saving Constitution and democracy’, but the exactly opposite thing happened. In Telangana, Gujarat, Odisha, Assam, Meghalaya and UP, several opposition MLAs voted for Murmu.

The most interesting development was in UP, where Shivpal Yadav, uncle of Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, voted for Murmu. After casting his vote, Shivpal Yadav told reporters, “How can I vote for Yashwant Sinha, who once described Mulayam Singh Yadav as an ISI agent? Any socialist leader will never accept this. People who allegiance to the ideals of our Netaji (Mulayam Singh) will never accept this.”

Shivpal Yadav alleged that Akhilesh Yadav did not consult anybody before extending his support to Sinha. In reply, Akhilesh Yadav said, “Chacha (uncle) has forgotten what BJP leaders had spoken about Mulayam Singh Yadav. It seems he has forgotten those abuses.”

Akhilesh Yadav’s coalition ally Om Prakash Rajbhar also deserted him. All five MLAs from Rajbhar’s party voted in favour of Murmu. Rabjhar said, “opposition parties have fielded Sinha in order to lose. Our alliance with Akhilesh will continue, but we voted for NDA candidate.” Replying to this, Akhilesh Yadav said, “we know Yashwant Sinha will not win, but he stood his ground, and that is a big thing. As far as Om Prakash Rajbhar is concerned, who can stop anybody from going. BJP is playing a game of manipulations.”

It is true, neither Samajwadi Party will suffer losses, nor the BJP will make gains if Shivpal Yadav and Rajbhar ditch Akhilesh Yadav, but this will surely have an impact on UP politics in the near future. It is a fact that old-timers who are loyalists of Mulayam Singh Yadav in Samajwadi Party, are unhappy with the style of working of Akhilesh Yadav, who is not giving them due importance.

This is the reason why Shivpal Yadav and Mohammed Azam Khan, who were pillars of the party, are unhappy with Akhilesh. As far as Rajbhar is concerned, his party is small and has limited presence in eastern UP. It is difficult to run a party by staying out of power. Om Prakash Rajbhar is slowly inching his way towards BJP. He had miscalculated during UP assembly elections early this year when he presumed that Akhilesh may return to power. Otherwise, Rajbhar had been a part of BJP’s Yogi government in UP. One should not be surprised if he returns to the BJP camp.

In Assam, AIUDF, an ally of Congress, alleged that at least 20 Congress MLAs indulged in crossvoting. AIUDF MLA Karimuddin Barbhuiya alleged that Congress MLAs did not vote for opposition candidate during Rajya Sabha polls, and have again ditched during the Presidential poll.

In Odisha, the Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal supported Murmu because she hailed from the state. All BJD and BJP MLAs voted for Murmu. Even a Congress MLA Mohammed Muquim voted for her and openly said that he voted after listening to his “voice of conscience.” In Meghalaya and Telangana, too, several Congress MLAs did not vote for Sinha. In Meghalaya and Gujarat, Sharad Pawar’s NCP MLAs also voted for Murmu. In Telangana, while the ruling TRS led by chief minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao openly supported Sinha, two TRS MPs cast their votes for Murmu.

Looking at the overall scenario, it is now clear that all efforts by senior opposition leaders like Sharad Pawar, K. Chandrashekhar Rao, Mamata Banerjee and Sonia Gandhi to give a tough united fight to the BJP in the Presidential poll, have fizzled out. RJD chief Tejashwi Yadav said, “whatever may be the outcome, at least we will have this satisfaction that our party did not leave the battle to save Constitution, at a time when several others bowed to BJP.”

The presidential poll has proved once again that Prime Minister Narendra Modi fights every electoral battle with full might. Modi does not fight the battle only to win, but also to decimate the opposition. Firstly, he sprang a surprise when he chose Draupadi Murmu as his party’s candidate, and sent the message across the nation that he has given the opportunity to a female Adivasi to take up the country’s highest constitutional post.

As a result, opposition leaders like Uddhav Thackeray and Hemant Soren, despite being anti-Modi, were forced to support Modi’s candidate. Murmu’s rival Yashwant Sinha was in Mamata Banerjee’s party, Trinamool Congress, but when Mamata found that a tribal woman was the rival, she did not muster up courage to mobilize massive support for Yashwant Sinha. Congress claims to be the largest opposition party, but its political allies expressed reservations over the issue of opposing a tribal woman candidate.

The result was there for all to see on Monday. There was crossvoting in Assam, Telangana and other states. Congress’ ally Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, the ruling party in Jharkhand, supported Murmu. The effect of these developments will be seen soon in national politics. Narendra Modi has proved it clearly that there is nothing called united opposition for now. Congress does not seem to realize this. It has fielded Margaret Alva as the opposition candidate for Vice-President election. She will face NDA candidate Jagdeep Dhankhar, who filed his nomination on Monday.

In the Vice-President election, only members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. 390 votes are required for victory, and NDA has 394 votes. Dhankhar’s win is also a foregone conclusion. If five nominated MPs vote, NDA’s tally can go upto 399. Margaret Alva knows the voting equation. She said, victory and defeat do take place in politics, but she will give a fight.

There should be contests in a democracy and it is a healthy tradition, but it could have been better, had there been unanimity in electing individuals to high Constitutional posts.

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